Part 2 of 3 of a verse by verse commentary on the book of Esther
Esther Chapter 3
Another 4-5 years later (Esther 3:7 In the first month, twelfth year of King Ahasuerus (spring of 474 BC))
Esther 3:1 After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.
We are introduced to the antagonist Haman. He is the bad guy in this story. He held the position of something like a Vizier or prime minister and we are told of his lineage.
What is an Agagite
- could be district of the empire as some an ancient inscription mentions Agag as a district in Persia
- a descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites in the days of Saul (see 1 Samuel 15).
Josephus refers to Haman as being “by birth an Amalekite” and of course they were the “mortal enemy” of the Israelites as scriptures show:
1 Samuel 15:2 Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt
1 Samuel 30:17 Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled.
1 Samuel 30:18 So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives.
SONS OF SIMEON
1 Chronicles 4:41 These recorded by name came in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah; and they attacked their tents and the Meunites who were found there, and utterly destroyed them, as it is to this day. So they dwelt in their place, because there was pasture for their flocks there.
1 Chronicles 4:42 Now some of them, five hundred men of the sons of Simeon, went to Mount Seir, having as their captains Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi.
1 Chronicles 4:43 And they defeated the rest of the Amalekites who had escaped. They have dwelt there to this day.
The Amalekites were in several places and persistent in their hatred toward Israel.
So it could have been both a place in Persia AND the lineage of Amalekites. This could very well have been the ongoing problems stemming from Jacob and Esau, then to Saul and Amalekites and so on.
- Abraham 2000 B.C. (Esau and Jacob)
- Moses 1500 B.C. (Israelites coming out of Egypt)
- King David 1000 B.C. (Saul and David and their battles)
So it is interesting that Haman seems to be from this same people and if we understand who they are today, then they continue to be a thorn in the side of the Jews.
Esther 3:2 And all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.
Esther 3:3 Then the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?”
Esther 3:4 Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.
Esther 3:5 When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.
So now we see how all this could play into their history!
Esther 3:6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai.
We see that there is something underlying here. It goes from a disdain for just Mordecai to all Jews every where. This is a big jump, unless there was previous history.
What we are beginning to see is that Haman is a tool of Satan. Satan has long sought to destroy the plan of God. If he can kill all the Jews, then Jesus cannot come as prophesied.
We also see why Mordecai was inspired to tell Esther not to reveal that she was a Jewess! If this is common knowledge then there is no way that Haman would have proceeded to do this.
Esther 3:7 In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.
This was 4-5 years after Esther was made Queen.
Pur means lot or die/dice. Purim is simply the plural of this.
Lots can be Godly as in the example where it was used to replace Judas Iscariot. Or it can be ungodly like it is here. Even though ungodly, God had His hand in it.
In this process it seems like they had to keep casting the lot until they got all the way to the last month (12th). For this to happen, it would certainly be against the odds.
Esther 3:8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.
It does not appear that the king got the whole story from Haman.
The “Jew’s laws” have always caused them to stand out either from the moral aspect of it; it can appear to be self-righteous; stand in stark contrast to the way that others act and it is a reflection of those wrongful actions back towards them.
Esther 3:9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.”
After Haman mentions the money, I’m not sure that King Ahasuerus heard anything else :) This amounts to multiple millions of dollars today.
So now there was nothing to stop the king from granting Haman’s request: they were law breakers and someone else is paying for it.
Esther 3:10 So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.
Esther 5:11 Then Haman told them … how [the king] had promoted him above the officials and servants of the king.
Esther 8:2 So the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman….
Esther 3:11 And the king said to Haman, “The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you.”
Sealed with the king’s ring was as good as the king saying it — and what he says is law.
Some take this to mean that the king would pay or not require Haman to pay but later verses confirm that it was Haman’s money
Esther 4:7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews.
Esther 7:4 For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.”
We should then view it more as “If that’s what you want to do with your money then go ahead.”
Now Haman had a free hand to do what he wanted!
Esther 3:12 Then the king’s scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded—to the king’s satraps, to the governors who wereover each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king’s signet ring.
Esther 3:13 And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.
Esther 3:14 A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day.
c. March of 473 BC
Esther 3:15 The couriers went out, hastened by the king’s command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.
Perhaps toasting their actions – all was well with them! But those of Shushan were wondering what was going on. This might lead us to wonder how much the king was privy to and how much leeway he had given Haman because of the trust that he had instilled in him.
Esther 4:1 When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry.
Esther 4:2 He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.
Esther 4:3 And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
All of this happens very quickly now and we are still in the same time setting as the previous chapter. Also all the affected people react very quickly to it.
A question that has to be answered: Why were they fasting?
People do not purposely fast for no reason! Of course this was for beseeching God and pleading their case before Him. Why do we bring this up? This shows God in the book and the process and the plan!
Esther 4:4 So Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.
Esther 4:5 Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was.
Though many became aware very quickly, Esther was still in the dark. She was not privy to the king’s business. She could not just go before the king ask about the day to day affairs (Esther 4:11)
Esther 4:6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king’s gate.
He was promoted to a key position within the king’s gate (Esther 2:19), but because of the way that he was dressed could not proceed further (Esther 4:2)
Esther 4:7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews.
Esther 4:8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.
Mordecai has some connections to be able to get this information — no doubt because of the key position God promoted him to (Esther 2:19).
What we have here now is that Mordecai sees a way out of this – through Esther! So he gives her all the info and background so that she may act.
Esther 4:9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
Esther 4:10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai:
Esther 4:11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.”
What we see here is a reticence on the part of Esther to go plead the case of the Jews. Because even as special as she is, she had not been called in for a whole month and there could be deadly consequences.
Esther 4:12 So they told Mordecai Esther’s words.
Esther 4:13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.
This confirms her reluctance in Esther 4:11
The kings law is the kings law. If Haman’s plan is put into action, she will not be safe no more than Daniel was in a similar situation (Daniel 6:14-15). As much as it would displease the king to kill her he would be bound by law to do so.
Esther 4:14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Mordecai then steps it up it another level saying you have the responsibility to do what is right. If you do not you will be cursed and God will save the Jews some other way as He has done in the past (Egypt etc).
who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this… Maybe we are looking at it in hindsight, but to me this really seems like it is obvious – this is exactly what God was doing with young orphaned Jewish girl.
Esther 4:15 Then Esther [now pricked in her heart] told them to reply to Mordecai:
Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which isagainst the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
Fasting comes up once again (see notes on Esther 4:3).
Though there is still no mention of God, His intervention in their lives though hidden, is conspicuous and indisputable.
Esther 4:17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.
Esther 5:1 Now it happened on the third day [of fasting] that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.
Esther was willing to sacrifice herself for the Jews. For three days she did not know if she would live after that time.
Esther 5:2 So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.
What a relief! She found favor with God and the king.
Esther 5:3 And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”
This appears to be idiomatic, something along the lines of: “tell me your request and I will do my utmost best to grant it”
Esther 5:4 So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”
Esther had thought this through and had a plan. The banquet was not the request but merely a segue or transition to it (Esther 5:6).
Esther 5:5 Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
Esther 5:6 At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!”
We see here that the banquet was not the actual request
Esther 5:7 Then Esther answered and said, “My petition and request is this:
Esther 5:8 If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”
Why exactly she does this is not clear and not said, except to say that God had His hand in it and He had His reasons. Some of which we will see a little later. Once again we are not let in on what everyone was thinking and in turn this allows us to focus on and see God in the story.
Esther 5:9 So Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai.
Haman with all his wealth, power, status and position was still just a petty man. With his whole life (as far as he knew) going well this one little thing stuck in his craw.
Esther 5:10 Nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh.
It is interesting that Haman had restrained himself up to this point here, because it is not what he wanted to do as we will see in the next verse. Haman did not say anything to him at this time though he was “dying to”, but instead he would vent to his friends and family.
Esther 5:11 Then Haman told them of his great riches, the multitude of his children, everything in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king.
Esther 5:12 Moreover Haman said, “Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared; and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king.
Esther 5:13 Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”
The irony here is that while Haman was so upset by what Mordecai was doing, he was so pleased by what he thought Eshter was doing for him…another Jew! Had he known that she was a Jew, I do not think that he would have been excited about it or making the plans that he does in the next verse:
Esther 5:14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made.
He had no more of a clue about where his life was going than Esther did right before she was chosen as a virgin. From there she becomes Queen Persia and now we see Haman, who is #2 in the world ruling empire of its time, now moving towards his demise.
In both of these cases the Unseen hand of God at work!